Allerdale Council has refused to serve a notice on an elderly couple compelling them to fix a “dangerous wall” next to their Workington home.

The county council has said that the wall is not its responsibility and that the onus is on the borough to make sure Brian and Elizabeth Holm pay for the necessary works to make it safe.

The Holms believe that the leaning structure next to Ashfield Gardens is in danger of collapse, potentially causing “serious injury or worse” to a youngster or passing driver.

The wall has been cordoned off amid public safety fears, with estimates that the lamppost next to it has listed almost two inches in the last fortnight alone. But the county council has blamed tree roots in the couple’s garden for the subsidence and has claimed that it is up to the homeowners themselves to resolve the problem.

The authority said the leaning structure does not belong to them and it is up to Allerdale Council’s building control department to carry out enforcement action.

But the borough council said it is not clear what has caused the issue with the wall, and it is up to the county to serve the notice.

An Allerdale spokesman said: “The owners have provided the council with evidence showing that there is a dispute over the ownership of the wall with Cumbria County Council as the Highways Authority.

“Allerdale Council, therefore, has clear justification for refusing to issue notice under Section 167 of the Highways Act 1980 as requested by Cumbria County Council.

“Under Section 167, the county council also have the powers to serve a notice and this is the more appropriate course of action with the highway being affected and being directly involved with the ownership dispute.”

Mr and Mrs Holm, who did not build or authorise the wall, have correspondence showing that they have been trying to resolve the long-running saga since the early 1970s.

The couple has said they had received previous assurances that the local authority would pay for the work.

The present breeze block structure was erected by construction firm Thomas Armstrongs in the 1970s after the first wall they also built collapsed.

Mr Holm, 81, has also said that they are not in a position financially to pursue legal action or pay for the work, thought likely to cost tens of thousands of pounds, with mounting fears over  the wall causing them “worry and stress” in their twilight years.

Mrs Holm, 81, said she was “constantly thinking of the children who live in Ashfield Gardens” amid fears the wall might fall on them.

Her husband added: “Sometimes it’s the last thing you think about when you go to sleep and the first thing you think about when you wake up.”

But the county council insists there is “no dispute” over the wall’s ownership.

Thomas Armstrong has been approached for comment, but they told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the person who knew about it was away on holiday until August 19.